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How to plan an effective first piano lesson for a student with special needs.

Your first lesson with a student will be one of the most important lessons you will have with that student, if not the most important!

If you fail to get the student excited about learning or you you don't leave a good first impression on the parent, odds are they will not come back. Not only you will lose on income but also you will miss the chance to share your passion of teaching music and possibly changing the life of a child.

Now, I am going to show you how to have an engaging fun first lesson with your students and have them wait impatiently for their next lesson.

Of course their is no One Size Fits All, and what I am about to share with you is a general guideline where you can incorporate your own ideas and creativity. Always remember that no two students are the same and what takes one student 2 weeks to master might take another 2 months. Be flexible, change what you don't like and add your personal touch. I don't approach my method with sacredness so feel free to edit and change it according to your own needs.

There is a lot of evidence that the first piano lesson is definitely not the best time to teach note reading or to stuff the lesson with loads of information and leave the student scared and overwhelmed. You want the child to willingly come back for more lessons.

What you should aim for during the first lesson is to give the students the important skills that will set them for future success:

You need to:

  • Know your students build a relationship and what they can and can't do, what they like, what they don't like...

  • Motivate your students and get them to love piano.

  • Navigate the piano.

  • Introduce them to the piano's different sounds.

  • Introduce them to rhythm.

  • Begin teaching them how to move their fingers independently.

  • Most importantly is to HAVE FUN with it!

How to make the most of these lessons:

  • Daily practice is ideal and produces the best results. If this is not possible, 2 times a week is the minimum required to see improvement.

  • Repeat the lesson as many times as you need, until you feel you can move forward without overwhelming the student.

LESSON 1 - Duration 30 minutes

1. Hello song / Greeting:

Choose any song or a melody you prefer to start the lesson with. Play and sing this song together at the beginning of every lesson. Children with special needs feel comfortable when there is a routine and when they know what to expect. Make this the announcement of the beginning of every lesson.

2. Exploring different sounds:

Explore the different qualities and possibilities of sounds on the piano: loud sounds, quiet sounds, animal sounds, sounds of nature, sounds of familiar objects, or sounds of cars...

Create a musical story together. Kids love to do this.

3. White and Black Keys and their pattern:

Play white keys, play black keys. Notice the pattern.

Play all black keys going from lowest to highest, each hand separately.

Play all groups of threes going from lowest to highest each hand separately.

Play all groups of twos going from lowest to highest each hand separately.

4. Black Keys tune:

Teach the lessons on pages 7 and 8 of The Easier Piano Book 1or any short black key tune that will help the student recognise the white / black key pattern on the piano.

You might need to hold the young student's hand for support.

5. Copy Cat:

Start by playing 2 notes and ask the student to repeat. If successful play 3 different notes. If successful, play different 3 notes with a different rhythm and ask student to repeat. Find out how far you can go with this. My students love the copy cat part of the lesson.

6. Hand Gym:

The Hand Gym has become very popular with my students because of its quick and amazing effect on their finger movement. I have actually been asked to make a video of the exercises in order for the parents to practice them with their children at home.

7. Song Time:

Always end the lesson on a good note. Make the last 5 minutes the most fun. Ask the student to choose a rhythm instrument and sing a song together using the rhythm instrument of choice and accompany your student on the piano.

Here is the complete downloadable pdf lesson plan file that includes:

  • Progress checklist.

  • Guidelines and teaching tips.

  • The whole lesson plan.


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